2. Beta Readers.

Don’t rely on yourself to decide if it’s the best thing since sliced bread. Bring in some trusted readers to see what they As objective as we think we can be about our own writing, we can never be objective enough.

Upcoming Writer’s Conferences – 

Here’s a list of upcoming events where either I or another Writer’s Digest staffer will offer instruction to help you achieve your writing goals. Come join me!

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6 Things to Consider After You Write Your First Draft

Her chocolate brown hair fell over the back of her desk onto mine. You might as well have put me in the stocks, the medieval stretcher, than to place me directly behind her. Sixth grade’s goddess of all goddesses. Her name alone gnawed at hormones I never knew I had. Penelope Davenport. Though it took two months, I finally drummed up enough courage to say hello, and I was shocked. She gave me a few moments of her time.

“We have science together, right?” she said, my jaw bouncing off the speckled floor.

I sit right behind you! You swing your hair in my face daily! I’ve even picked up your pencil once or twice when you’ve dropped it!

I know it sounds crazy, but I didn’t care. We’d made small-talk, and that’s all it took before I’d pledged my heart to her. Those were the best three days of my life. Yeah—I said three days. Why? Todd Stevens. The Todd Stevens, quarterback, blonde hair, blues eyes, already on steroids Todd Stevens. My first love gone like my allowance ‘cuz I used it to buy her a ring. I was so sure she was the one.

I was so sure she was the one. How many times have we completed a paragraph or a chapter even and swore that even Steven King would be jealous? That first draft—so easy to fall in love with because of the countless hours you’ve spent together. Drawing upon the muse and flooding the page with your once in a lifetimes story!

[Want to land an agent? Here are 4 things to consider when researching literary agents.]

Most writers experience what I like to call the Writing Zone. Not unlike the Twilight Zone, we finish a section of our novel or short story and bask in the mystery. Where on earth did that come from? Like one of my favorite episodes with William Shatner who sees the monster on the airplane wing 30,000 feet in the air. We float as well because the words came so easily. The characters had a voice, and all we had to do was translate it. Every dot and tittle worked to perfection. We do what most experts say to do and leave it alone for a few days, come back, and it’s still the best thing we’ve ever written. Oh—but is it really?

A songwriter for over thirty years, on occasion I’ve written a lyric/song in around ten minutes and never had to touch it again, but that was rare. Extremely rare. Here are a few things to consider after you’ve written your first love—uh—I mean draft.

  1. Sensory details.

Will the reader see, taste, smell, feel, and hear your story? Or will you leave too much to their imagination? I’m not talking about sensory overload like some writers insist on doing, but enough to place the reader into your setting.

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7. Quit.

If all else succeeds and you’re still intent on not finishing your novel, you have a surefire fallback: Stop writing.

Forget the examples of those who persevered and eventually found an agent or got published. Like Kathryn Stockett. She wrote and edited The Help over a five-year period, then got three-and-a-half  years’ worth of rejections from agents—60 in all. It was agent 61 who took her on, and the rest you know well.

Published authors will tell you it’s all about perseverance, the one characteristic all successful writers share. They’ll tell you as long as you’ve got a computer and keyboard, or pen and paper, you can write. And as long as you write you have a chance to get published.

Author David Eddings said, “Keep working. Keep trying. Keep believing. You still might not make it, but at least you gave it your best shot. If you don’t have calluses on your soul, writing isn’t for you. Take up knitting instead.” [Like this quote? Click here to Tweet and share it!]

With several bestselling series under his belt, he definitely wasn’t very good at not writing novels.

… Wait. What’s that? You actually want to write a novel? Well, I’m not the writing sheriff. The choice is yours.

 

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6. Take as many shortcuts as possible.

With the boom in e-books and the ease with which anything can be “published,” writers have a new way notto write a novel that might be worth reading. It’s by holding the thought firmly in mind that whatever they write is worth putting out as a self-released e-book, and they will do it no matter what!

This relieves a lot of the pressure of trying to grow as a writer. One can combine this with the chip-on-your-shoulder attitude for a terrific double whammy.

Of course, other writers—those who are laying a strong foundation in the nontraditional realm of digital and independent publishing—foolishly continue to find surefire ways to vet their work:

  • They will use test readers. They don’t trust themselves in all ways. They know they need objective readers, so they cultivate people they trust to tell them specifically what’s not working. Then they’ll figure out a way to fix it.
  • They will hire a good freelance editor. They know that the big benefit of a traditional publisher is professional editing, so it’s worth it to them to find a reputable freelance editor to go over their work. Note the word reputable. There are less-than-savory services out there that will gladly take a writer’s money for very little quality work. (And if you’re trying to not write a novel that’s publishable, you should probably use them!)

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5. Write for the market only.

Now let’s talk about one of the biggest keys to a novel that really has no chance. Start by chasing the market. Study the bestseller lists and try to identify a trend and jump on it.

There’s a saying in publishing that the moment you spot a trend, it’s too late to join it. By the time you finish writing something you think will be popular because it’s popular now, that ship will have largely sailed.

Ignore that saying, or you may end up with something agents and editors look for: a fresh voice.

Such writers are market conscious. They know that publishers are in this business to make money, a return on their investment in a new writer.

But they still manage to bring something new to the table, namely their own heart and passion filtered through a craft that enables readers to share their vision.

Yes, vision. Any genre needs it. As super agent Donald Maass says in The Fire in Fiction: “What the hell are you trying to say to me?”

Writers with fresh voices:

  • Explore all facets of a story. They concentrate on feeling the story as well as writing it.
  • Read a wide variety of material. These writers read outside their genre—even poetry!—not to find out what’s hot, but to expand their stylistic range.

But just beware that if you do find your voice, that means you’re not not writing your novel.

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4.Keep a chip on your shoulder.

Here’s a surefire way not only to create a novel not worth reading, but scuttle your career as well. Decide that arrogance and defiance are your two weapons of choice to bulldog your way to publication.

When you have a manuscript rejected, treat it as a personal insult. Think of editors and agents as nasty creatures who love saying no, who sit at their computers laughing Bwahahahahaha as they fire off their favorite thing: the impersonal form letter.

You can carry all this to your social media sites and publicly rebuke such shortsightedness. By name.

Those who do break through and obtain a career have the crazy idea that they can recover—even learn—from rejection and use it as motivation to write better.

They foolishly remember the admonition of writer Ron Goulart: “Never assume that a rejection of your stuff is also a rejection of you as a person. Unless it’s accompanied by a punch in the nose.”

Yes, they recognize that rejection hurts. But they  believe it’s part of the process and always will be. Writers like this do the following:

  • Wallow, then write. They let the rejection hurt for half an hour or so, then get back to the keyboard.
  • Learn from the critique. They go through the letter and their manuscript and attempt to draw out any lesson the rejection brings. They understand that people in the publishing industry actually want to find new authors.

Of course, these are terrible tips for not writing a novel!

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3. Ignore the craft.

This piece of advice on how to not write a novel applies whether you finish your first draft or not. It’s the cry of the artistic rebel who will go to the grave denouncing rules and techniques and anything that gets within a hundred yards of structure.

This does create a very good feeling, like you’re the king of the world. You can completely ignore all of the storytellers who came before you (be sure to call them hacks or sellouts). The fact that you’ll most likely not place your book anywhere shouldn’t hinder you from your intractable writing course.

The misdirected scribes who actually sell their books and build readerships take the craft of writing seriously. They study it without apology. They have people give them feedback—editors, critique groups, trusted and objective friends—and they read countless novels and examine what’s going on. They’ll do the following:

Analyze successful stories. They ask questions when reading and use their findings to help strengthen their work. For example:

  • How does the writer make me want to turn the page?
  • Why am I drawn to the lead character?
  • When are the stakes raised?
  • How does the writer integrate minor characters?
  • What makes a scene work?
  • What’s the key to conflict?
  • How does the writer handle dialogue?

These studious writers will be spotted reading Writer’s Digest and books on writing. What they learn they apply and practice, and through the wonder of trial and error find themselves growing as writers.

But this is an article on how not to write a novel, so follow their example at your peril.

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